Social Networking and Sobriety: Protecting Your Identity Online as a Recovering Addict

Keeping your journey through recovery private is your personal choice. It’s equally important that you respect the choices of others in your online recovery community. These basic tips will not only protect your identity, but will also help make sure other people’s private lives are kept out of your public news feed.

Social media has become an essential communication and connection tool for many of us. Our smartphones are part of our everyday lives — recent studies have revealed that nearly 80 percent of smartphone users check Facebook on their phones before they even brush their teeth. We rely on social media to stay up-to-date with our friends and family, share photos and videos, follow companies, products and services we like, and connect with groups and pages that share our views and values.

But what happens when you’re trying to keep your identity as a person in addiction recovery private? The details you share, along with the pages and groups you follow on Facebook and Instagram, could accidentally reveal your — or someone else’s — identity as a person in recovery to the public. Keeping recovery private in your online interactions means you’ll want to take extra measures to control both your personal information and who can see it.

Regrettably, we all have moments where we are too open — or even unaware of how open we’re being — with sharing our activities online. This guide outlines some basic privacy controls you need to know about smartphones and social networks, as well as some simple etiquette tips for interacting online with other people in recovery.

We’ll take a look at:

  • Smartphones
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter

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Smartphone

From navigation to productivity, we use our phones for just about everything. Want to read restaurant reviews before deciding on dinner? There’s an app for that. Need to find an AA meeting while on a business trip in a different city? You can search right from your phone.

Our phones hold so much personal and private information; that’s why it’s essential that you understand how your smartphone privacy settings work.

Some tips for keeping your identity as a person in recovery private include:

  • Denying apps administrative privileges to your data.
  • Being aware of location services and how they show up to outside users.
  • Routinely updating your passwords on your apps and accounts several times a year.

Facebook

With nearly two billion active users, Facebook is the most widely-used social network. You can connect with friends, post updates, “check-in” to businesses and locations, send private and group messages, join common interest groups, engage with companies, record live videos, and upload photos and videos. Facebook has different privacy settings for photos, posts, friends, and page likes — many of which you’ll have to set individually.

Here are a few tips for keeping your information private on the world’s most used social networking site:

  • Sharing information is optional: Just because Facebook gives you the option to let people know where you went to high school doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Consider sharing the state where you live, but not the city, to keep your identity more under wraps. Be warned that certain information is always public, such as your name, profile picture, cover photo, gender, networks, username and user ID.
  • Don’t integrate: Turn off Facebook’s access to the calendar, contacts, microphone, and location information on your smartphone.
  • Keep your groups and pages private: Adjust your settings so that groups and pages related to addiction and recovery are not viewable by anyone who isn’t a member of the group.
  • Control your tags: Make sure you set your privacy settings so that you have the option to review a post before people tag you in it, be it a comment or a picture, or post a message to your timeline.

While Facebook is the gold standard when it comes to social media, you’re likely on a few other sites as well. Some of the privacy settings are similar, but you’ll want to go through each one individually.

Instagram

Instagram is a phone-based photo and video sharing app that lets people search for content they’re interested in by hashtags. By default, your Instagram profile and posts are public, so be sure to change your privacy settings as soon as you create an account. This way, only the people you have approved can see your posts.

Other ways to guard your identity as a recovering addict on Instagram include:

  • Keeping your photos private by changing that setting in the “Edit Your Profile” feature by your profile picture. This will make sure your photos won’t make their way into public searches.
  • Changing your smartphone’s geo-location software so it doesn’t pair every photo you take to a location.
  • Blocking people who are violating your trust. If someone repeatedly makes public remarks about your private life, block them by clicking on the three dots in the top right corner of their profile and choosing the “block” option.

As with Facebook, some Instagram settings are always public. Keep in mind that no matter how tight you make your privacy settings, anyone can read your bio or message you directly.

Twitter

With Twitter, making your profile private is the first step in protecting your identity as a person in addiction recovery. Like Instagram, your default privacy setting is public, so be sure to check that right away.

A private account means that:

  • Only users you have approved can see your tweets.
  • Your tweets will no longer appear in searches or be able to be re-tweeted.
  • Any posts that were public will now only be viewable by your approved followers.

Two additional tips:

  • You can take an extra step to make your tweets accessible only to your followers by selecting “Protect my Tweets” in “Settings and Privacy.”
  • If you want to keep locations from being automatically attached to your tweets, make sure the box labeled “Add a Location to My Tweets” is unchecked.

No matter how securely you manage an online account, it’s important to remember that how you use social media will also impact privacy. It’s not just about settings; it’s also about behavior.

Recovery And Addiction Social Sharing Etiquette Tips

Before you hit the post button, always ask yourself three questions:

  • Does this post reveal my identity as a person in addiction recovery?
  • Does this post reveal someone else’s identity as a person in recovery?
  • Could this post cause me — or someone else — stress or anxiety that could harm progress in addiction recovery?

If you think the answer could be yes to any one of those questions, take a moment to pause before posting. You can go for a quick walk to think through the pros and cons of sharing. You could text the post to your sponsor or a close friend and get their opinion first.

When you’re posting on social media while trying to keep your association with addiction recovery private, try to avoid:

  • Only and always sharing addiction or recovery-related news articles, posts or blogs.
  • Adding a location tag to your recovery meetings.
  • Sharing a post or information that was originally posted in a private recovery-related social media group.
  • Posting vague or cryptic messages that can arouse suspicions or cause unrest within your recovery community.
  • Posting pictures from recovery-related events or social gatherings. If you want to do so, ask the host or guests if they mind. Be sure that nothing you show or write has even the slightest possibility of unintentionally outing someone as a person in recovery.

Truth be told, no matter how well you secure your profiles or how much thought you put behind all online interactions, nothing on the internet is private. With each interaction, keep in mind how important it is to protect the anonymity of yourself and others, then ask yourself if the risk is there and if it’s worth it. Think beyond the present moment — social media interactions can and will impact your future.

Alcoholics Anonymous - https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/mg-18_internet.pdf

Real Simple - https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/work-life-etiquette/manners/social-media-etiquette

Europol - https://www.europol.europa.eu/how-to-set-your-privacy-settings-social-media

Popular Science - https://www.popsci.com/make-all-your-social-media-posts-private

Lifewire - https://www.lifewire.com/make-instagram-account-private-3485850

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/help/325807937506242/

Zephoria Digital Marketing - https://zephoria.com/top-15-valuable-facebook-statistics/

Consumer Reports - https://www.consumerreports.org/privacy/how-to-protect-your-privacy-on-your-smartphone/

Harvard Medical School - https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/workplace-stigma-addiction-2018010513040

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